Only one team will be able to win their second straight game this week when the Indianapolis Colts host the Atlanta Falcons. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 EST on Sunday, September 22 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Fans in Atlanta, Indianapolis, and everywhere in between can watch the game on CBS.
After opening the week as 3-point favorites at home, the Colts are now just 1.5-point favorites over Atlanta. The over/under for the game is set at 47 points. Click here for a full list of the Week 3 NFL odds.
The Colts have been already involved in a couple of close games this season. First, Indy forged a late comeback to force overtime against the Chargers, only to lose in the extra period. Last week, Jacoby Brissett again rallied the team in the fourth quarter. After scoring a touchdown to take a 19-17 lead, the Indianapolis defense held on to give the Colts their first win of the season.
Fresh off that win, the Colts come home for the first time this season. In fact, Indy will play four of their next five games from the comforts of Lucas Oil Stadium. Of course, Indy’s schedule is back-loaded with road games, so the Colts have to take advantage of this long stretch of time at home.
Seizing home-field advantage is exactly what the Falcons did last week. Coming off a terrible performance in their season opener, the Falcons scored a late touchdown to edge the Eagles 24-20. Of course, Atlanta also let a 17-6 lead get away from them. But Matt Ryan came through in the clutch to avoid starting the year 0-2.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, they are back on the road for three of their next four games. After such a poor performance on the road in Week 1, that schedule could make Atlanta a little nervous. Given the difficult division they play in, the Falcons aren’t going to survive in the NFC South if they can’t win a few games on the road.
This is a tough call because I have concerns about both teams. With Indy, the biggest issue has been kicker Adam Vinatieri, who missed two PATs last week. If the spread were bigger, that could tip the scales. But with the Colts only needing to win by two points to cover, I’ll take my chances on Indy holding serve at home.
I’m still not sure what to make of Atlanta two games into the season. They laid an egg on the road in Week 1, and that worries me. In theory, Ryan is an excellent quarterback and has the kinds of weapons in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to do some serious damage. But he’s also thrown five interceptions in two games, and we know that’s not a winning formula in the NFL. The Falcons have also done next to nothing on the ground, as their offensive line remains a concern. Even with some explosive options in the passing game, those flaws are difficult to ignore, especially for a team that’s playing on the road.
Meanwhile, the Colts appear to have found an identity after Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement. The Indianapolis offense is now firmly committed to running the ball. Remember, the Colts had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL last season, so it’s just a matter of altering their mindset from pass protection to run blocking. Marlon Mack alone has 225 rushing yards this season, and Jordan Wilkins gave the Colts big yards last week.
With a steady running game, the Colts don’t have to ask too much of Brissett. But when he’s been called upon, Brissett has delivered. While only averaging six yards per pass attempt, Brissett has five touchdowns to just one interception through two games. Last week, he threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers, including tight end Eric Ebron and rookie Parris Campbell. The less reliant on T.Y. Hilton the Colts become, the more effective they’ll be on the occasions that they need Brissett to throw the ball.
For what it’s worth, the Atlanta defense is near the top of the league in yards allowed through two games. However, part of that relates to Minnesota’s refusal to throw the ball in Week 1. Also, three of Philadelphia’s four scoring drives last week went for less than 30 yards because they had short fields following Atlanta’s turnovers. I’m not yet ready to buy into the Falcons being a strong defensive team. Remember, they struggled to stop the Vikings in Week 1 even though they only attempted 10 passes, and they’re going to get a healthy dose of the running game against this week.
If the Falcons can get their passing game going and force a shootout, I think the Colts will be in trouble. But Ryan’s turnover rate through the first two games worries me. I think Indy will be able to play the game at their pace and find a way to eke out a two-point win, which will be enough to cover.